A $171,961 grant from the federal Department of Health and Human Services to Indiana University of Pennsylvania is designed to help address the nation’s nursing shortage by providing financial support to students who commit to serving as nurse educators.

Administered by the Department’s Health Resources and Services Administration, the Nursing Loan Forgiveness Program provides loan forgiveness (up to 85 percent of loans borrowed through the program) for students in the master’s and doctoral nursing programs who commit to serving as a nursing educator at any accredited school of nursing or as a clinical educator at an accredited health facility for four years.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for our talented students to truly make a difference as nurse educators, and to fill the gaps in the workforce,” said Kristy Chunta, who secured the funding. Chunta is a professor and is the doctoral program coordinator in IUP’s Department of Nursing and Allied Health.

“Nurses are desperately needed throughout the commonwealth and beyond, so this funding can help to create new opportunities for students to become nurses with the addition of new faculty in nursing programs at colleges and universities and at clinical sites,” she said.

This is IUP’s first year to receive these funds, but Chunta anticipates that IUP will reapply for additional years of funding.

A total of four IUP students in the master’s, DNP, and PhD programs have committed to the Nursing Loan Forgiveness Program, which provides up to $40,000 for an academic year.

The program is not dependent on financial status, but students must have at least a 3.0 grade point average and maintain at least part-time student status.

IUP’s master’s in nursing and allied health programs include nursing administration, nursing education, or health services administration. The PhD programs are Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) to PhD, and PhD in Nursing. IUP also offers a Nursing Simulation and Technology Certificate of Recognition.

IUP’s master’s and doctoral programs are designed for working professionals, with online options for all of these programs. Graduates of IUP’s Master of Nursing program, accredited in 1992, are qualified to teach nursing students.

IUP’s nursing students at all levels are routinely recognized nationally for excellence, including with National League for Nursing Education scholarships.

IUP’s nursing graduates hold a 93.5 percent first-time passing rate on the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). IUP’s rate reflects testing results from 2010 through 2020. IUP nursing graduates’ first-time passing rate exceeds the national rate of 86.57 percent, (calculated for 2020 first-time test takers by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing) and the average Pennsylvania first-time pass rate for 2020 of 91 percent.

Annually, more than 130 nursing students graduate from IUP’s Nursing and Allied Health Professions program, which holds accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

 More than 700 students are enrolled in IUP’s Nursing and Allied Health Department.